Current Affairs: 1 February 2017

Income Tax Department (ITD) launches Operation Clean Money

  • Income Tax Department (ITD) initiated Operation Clean Money. 
  • The initial phase of the operation involves e-verification of large cash deposits made during 9th November to 30th December 2016 period.
  • Data analytics has been used for comparing the demonetisation data with information in ITD databases. In the first batch, around 18lakh persons have been identified in whose case, cash transactions do not appear to be in line with the tax payer's profile.
  • ITD has enabled online verification of these transactions to reduce compliance cost for the taxpayers while optimising its resources. 
  • The information in respect of these cases is being made available in the e-filing window of the PAN holder (after log in) at the portal https://incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in.
  • The PAN holder can view the information using the link 'Cash Transactions 2016' under 'Compliance' section of the portal. 
  • The taxpayer will be able to submit online explanation without any need to visit the Income Tax office.
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E-paathsala launches technology-backed services for higher education institutions in India

  • E-paathsala, a Bangalore based startup, launched its first-of-its-kind, end to end integrated accreditation and ERP technology solution for managing colleges and universities with multiple accreditations for standards such as NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council) and NBA (National Board of Accreditation) etc. The accreditation assists institutions to get access to more funding, improve the quality of education and get higher student enrolment ratio.
  • Once an educational institution uses the ERP solution, they automatically get an accreditation report with gaps and recommendations on how to improve and get better grades for the accreditations. 
  • E-paathsala provides software and consultancy solutions to the institutions to help them improve their college management with an emphasis on how to improve their compliance with the accreditation standards. 
  • In addition, it also provides a full-fledged Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution to align the institution processes as per benchmark standards and improve efficiency of operation.

Union minister for textiles Smriti Irani inaugurates Meghalaya's first apparel centre

  • Union minister for textiles Smriti Zubin Irani inaugurated the first-ever apparel and garment making centre in the state in the presence of Union MoS for home Kiren Rijiju and chief minister Mukul Sangma near Ampati in South West Garo Hills.
  • The sprawling centre, covering an area of 45,000 square feet, was set up under the North East Region Textiles Promotion Scheme (NERTPS) at Hatisil near Ampati at an approximate cost of Rs 14.26 crore.
  • There are 105 sewing machines each in the first two units and 70 in the third unit of the centre.

H1B visa reform bill introduced in US, minimum pay doubled to $130,000

  • A legislation has been introduced in the US House of Representatives which among other things calls for more than doubling the minimum salary of H-1B visa holders to $130,000, making it difficult for firms to use the programme to replace American employees with foreign workers, including from India.
  • The High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017 introduced by California Congressman Zoe Lofgren prioritises market based allocation of visas to those companies willing to pay 200% of a wage calculated by survey, eliminates the category of lowest pay, and raises the salary level at which H1B dependent employer are exempt from non displacement and recruitment attestation requirements to greater than $130,000. 
  • This is more than double of the current H1B minimum wage of $60,000 which was established in 1989 and since then has remained unchanged.
  • It raises the salary level at which H1B dependent employer are exempt from attestation requirements to a new required wage level of 35 percentile points above the median national annual wage for Computer and Mathematical Occupations published by the Department of Labour Occupational Employment Statistics (roughly $132,000), which would be adjusted in the future without the need for new legislation, and eliminates the Master’s Degree exemption for dependent employers.

Ireland just became the world's first country to stop investing in fossil fuels

  • Ireland has voted to be the world's first country to fully divest public money from fossil fuels. 
  • The Irish Parliament passed the historic legislation in a 90 to 53 vote in favour of dropping coal, oil and gas investments from the 8bn (£6.8bn) Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, part of the Republic's National Treasury Management Agency
  • Once enacted, the bill would force the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund to sell its investment in fossil fuel industries over the next five years.
  • In 2015, Norway's sovereign pension fund divested from some fossil fuel companies, but not all.

Economic Survey 2017 tabled in Parliament: Key highlights

  • Union finance minister Arun Jaitley tabled the Economic Survey 2016-17 in Parliament budget session. 
  • The survey projects the economy to grow in the range of 6.75% to 7.25% in the next fiscal year 2017-18 in the post-demonetisation year.
  • The survey prepared by chief economic adviser in the finance ministry Arvind Subramanian said the adverse impact of demonetisation on GDP growth will be transitional. 
  • The Economic Survey 2016-17 advocates the concept of Universal Basic Income (UBI) as an alternative to the various social welfare schemes in an effort to reduce poverty.Gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2016-17 lowered down to 6.5%, from 7.6% in last fiscal.
  • Expected economic growth is 6.75 to 7.5% in 2017-18.
  • Fiscal windfall from Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, low oil prices.
  • Growth of Farm sector to be at 4.1% in the current fiscal
  • Fiscal gains from Goods and Services Tax (GST) will be realised later. 
  • Industrial Sector's estimated growth rate to be moderated to 5.2% in 2016-17 from 7.4% last fiscal.

Lakshmi Vilas Bank, Fisdom tie-up to launch robo-advisory platform

  • Lakshmi Vilas Bank has tied up with Fisdom, a Bangalore-based fin-tech startup, to launch financial planning and wealth management services based on robo-advisory platform. 
  • The platform called Mission FINFIT will also include services like getting the KYC done, investing money in various platforms, viewing the account summary, withdrawing the invested money, etc. 
  • Going cash less and digital is the way to the future and hence the bank has introduced this online platform to our retail customers. 
  • It recently launched the  mobile app which has been a huge success and with this collaboration with Fisdom, the bank will enhance its bouquet of banking products and services offered to its customer base. 
  • In this partnership, Fisdom will be the bank's product and service delivery partner
  • Lakshmi Vilas Bank will offer Mission FINFIT to more than 30 lakh customers of the bank across the country. 

India Post Payments Bank starts pilot services

  • India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) on kicked off its operations by rolling out pilot services in Raipur and Ranchi.
  • The bank will offer an interest rate of 4.5% on deposits up to Rs. 25,000; 5% on deposits of Rs.25,000-50,000 and 5.5% on Rs. 50,000-1,00,000
  • The paid up equity of the new bank is Rs.800 crore, of which the government has already infused Rs. 275 crore, he added.
  • The idea is to have a branch in every district and make 3 lakh postmen come alive in payment bank function.
  • 1,000 ATMs of India Post will be transferred to IPPB.
  • The payments bank — the third one to get a permit after Airtel and Paytm and the first one promoted by the government — will not just conduct business but also serve people.
  • India Post Payments Bank is the third entity to receive payments bank permit after Airtel and Paytm. Payments banks can accept deposits up to Rs. 1 lakh per account from individuals and small businesses.

UberMOTO launches service in Hyderabad

  • Cab-hailing firm Uber has launched two-wheeler aggregation service UberMOTO in Hyderabad. 
  • The firm, which has signed an agreement with the Hyderabad Metro Rail Ltd recently, formally launched the services on Monday.
  • Using the app, people can hire two-wheelers for short-distance commute at cheaper rates.
  •  The agreement was aimed at providing the last-mile connectivity from and to the upcoming Metro railway stations. 
  • Uber Founder and CEO Travis Kalanick came to Hyderabad last month to seal the deal.
  • The new service would help solve the transportation and congestion problems to some extent in the twin cities.
  • Driver partners of Uber had organised a protest early this month against the reduced incentives. 
  • They were also protesting against the shared services and UberMOTO, which, they felt, would hit their earnings.

National Entrepreneurship Awards 2016 presented by Home Minister Rajnath Singh

  • Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh presented the First National Entrepreneurship awards 2016 in New Delhi 
  • The awards have been presented in order to recognise the entrepreneurial spirit of India’s youth and encourage more young Indians to become entrepreneurs.
  • The Entrepreneurship Awards system has been created through a partnership between MSDE and a number of reputed institutions across the country including, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT - Delhi, Mumbai, Kanpur and Chennai), Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai and XLRI, Jamshedpur. Every year, one such institution will play the role of the lead institution to anchor the awards. For 2016-2017, the lead institution is IIT, Delhi.

12th Raising Day Celebration of National Disaster Response Force 

  • The 12th Raising Day of National Disaster Response Force(NDFR) is celebrated on January 31, 2017 to commended the NDRF for its efforts during disaster response .
  • Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh presented the Jeevan Raksha Padak awards and Distinguished Service Medals to the NDRF personnel on this occasion .
  • He also released the NDRF pictorial book and souvenir to mark the occasion.
  • The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) is a specialised force constituted “for the purpose of specialist response to a threatening disaster situation or disaster” under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

IT Ministry urges tax sops for PC manufacturers

  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has urged the Finance ministry to retain the differential excise duty regime and tax exemptions granted for the manufacture of mobile handsets and tablets, under the impending Goods and Services Tax regime, to prop up domestic manufacturing of electronic products.
  • In its key recommendations for the Union Budget 2017-18, the Ministry has suggested that these exemptions be expanded to personal computers and servers, as per the Phased Manufacturing Roadmap it has worked out in consultation with the Centre’s think tank NITI Aayog.
  • The current duty dispensation is 12.5% countervailing duty (CVD) versus 1% excise duty (without input credit of excise duty paid on the goods).
  • Differential duty makes imports of mobile handsets more expensive compared with making them locally, encouraging smartphone players to set up manufacturing units in India.
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